To begin with, what an exceptional DVD package Concert For George is. In the days of paying twenty bucks to get a single DVD, in a cheap plastic case, with no booklet, and no special features, getting a product of this quality is very refreshing. This package includes two DVDs – one with the complete concert performance, and one with the original theatrical version. What a revelation. A producer that actually appreciates the fact that most of
us might prefer to watch a concert uninterrupted by interviews and behind the scenes footage. This is all packaged in a beautiful tri-fold case, which includes a brilliant 30-page booklet containing information about the concert and performers, the set lists, and numerous photographs and quotes from many of the concert’s participants.
Concert For George is a fitting tribute to the late George Harrison whose death was exactly one year prior to the date of this concert. The "quiet Beatle", George’s songs increasingly became
more relevant and soon demanded their own place on each subsequent Beatles album, right beside the songs of the greatest songwriting duo ever – Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Although only one or two of Harrison’s songs would typically make it on each of The Beatles albums, these songs, such as "Something" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", were often the standout tracks on the album. Harrison had such a stockpile of great songs, which he couldn’t manage to squeeze on any of The Beatles albums, that he released the triple album, All Things Must Pass, soon after The Beatles breakup. Many consider it the finest of all Beatles solo albums.
A stellar group of musicians came out to pay tribute to George this night, including the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Star. Eric Clapton, along with George’s wife Olivia, organized the concert, and Clapton does an admirable job as emcee, singer, and, Guitar-God. I must admit I was
not familiar with a few of the key musicians in attendance, most notably Joe and Sam Brown. Joe sings stunning back-to-back versions of "Hear Comes The Sun" and "That’s The Way It Goes". He also closes the show with a gentle, heartfelt version of "I’ll See You In My Dreams". Sam, Joe’s daughter, delivers a powerful performance of "Horse To The Water". The lady has some incredible pipes – I’ve been on the lookout for her CDs ever since.
The concert opens with some traditional Indian music featuring Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka Shankar on the sitar. She was backed by a large Indian orchestra. The musicianship was exceptional, and the music was kind of cool, but I don’t think I could stand more than a couple songs of that type. It was a fitting tribute though, as George was heavily influenced by Indian music and he incorporated it a lot into his music. Also, Ravi Shankar was like a father to him. The Monty Python troupe took the stage next and performed two comedy skits. Honestly, I skipped right past this to get to the music. I enjoy some of Monty Python’s comedy, but it just didn’t seem appropriate here. George, however, was a big fan and he even produced one of their best films, The Life Of Brian. The concert really got rolling when the regular band took the stage to back Jeff Lynne singing "I Want To Tell You".
From then on out, virtually every performance was exceptional. The real magic
started when Ringo and Sir Paul shared the stage. Ringo came out first to sing "Photograph", the song he co-wrote with Harrison, and then Paul joined soon after to sing "For You Blue", while Ringo moved to the drum kit. The spotlight was squarely on Paul next, as he played a solo version of "Something" on the ukulele. At first, I didn’t particularly like this because I wanted to hear this awesome song done appropriately. I wasn’t disappointed, as after a few minutes of Paul’s version, Clapton tore into that great opening guitar riff, and Billy Preston took over the lead vocals as they played an outstanding version of this great love song. During an interview, McCartney explained that when he and George used to get together at George’s house, they would often pick up ukuleles and jam. He played the ukulele intro in remembrance of those special times.
Just as I was thinking it couldn’t get any better than that, Clapton began delicately strumming the chords to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". This performance reunited three of the five musicians who played on the original recording – McCartney played the piano and sang harmony vocals, Ringo sat in on the drums, and Clapton handled the lead vocals and played a jaw-dropping version of his own classic guitar solo. George must have been smiling from above. I know I was grinning like hell. One of the strangest things about watching this concert was seeing George’s son Dhani up there playing guitar. You could literally switch the picture of George, from that DVD cover up there, with a picture of Dhani, and nobody would know the difference. The resemblance is remarkable, although it was hard to get a feel for whether he could play the guitar and sing like his dad from this performance, as he primary stayed in the background.
The production quality of these DVDs are excellent. The audio is especially good as you get very dynamic DTS and Dolby 5.1 mixes, as well as Dolby stereo. Both 5.1 mixes were clear and had good instrument separation, but the surround speakers were reserved mostly for crowd noise, some background vocals, and to reinforce what is delivered to the main speakers. The anamorphic widescreen presentation delivers some excellent wide angle shots of the entire stage. The picture is generally sharp and the colors look excellent. This DVD package sets the example for what future releases should be. Now I guess I’ll have to watch the theatrical version.
The Inner Light
Sit On My Face
The Lumberjack Song
I Want To Tell You
If I Needed Someone
Old Brown Shoe
Beware Of Darkness
Here Comes The Sun
That’s The Way It Goes
Horse To The Water
I Need You
Handle With Care
Isn’t It A Pity
For You Blue
All Things Must Pass
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
My Sweet Lord
I’ll See You In My Dreams
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